Grandma Pink

My grandmother was a firecracker until the day she died. Her nails were always painted fuschia, even in her seventies. And her skin, soft and thin between each wrinkle, smelled like baby lotion and Freedent Gum. She always had a wild cherry Luden’s tucked beneath a crumpled tissue in the pocket of her pastel pink sweater, which she would stuff in my hand and wink when my mom wasn’t looking. I thought I was getting a real treat.

During her last years at the upscale assisted living facility where my mom also worked, she got her kicks stealing Oreos off the dessert cart for my sister and me. She’d swipe clothes from the laundry room with names like Fanny Mae or Matilda Jean stitched into the collar for my mom. And she insisted we take at least one roll of single ply toilet paper from her shared bathroom every time we visited. My grandma was Robin Hood with a cane.

Before my mom moved her there, my grandma lived with us for a couple years. Though she spent the majority of her time watching soap operas in her blue velvet rocking chair, there were a couple of occasions when she called a cab to drive us to Big Lots for discounted Cabbage Patch Dolls and orange cream soda pop. Her ass was on fire and she couldn’t sit still even when the years wanted to catch up.

Aside from my sister and me, the only things she cared about were The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, shopping, and Elvis. Mostly Elvis and his swaying hips. In her mind, he really was a king. She knew every record, word for word, and owned every movie. I think in some ways she loved him more than my grandpa. Each year, she celebrated his birthday and mourned the anniversary of his death. She kept his obituary in her jewelry box, but part of her believed he continued to live happily on some remote island, because The National Enquirer said it was true. Some days we couldn’t convince her otherwise.

She wore lipstick and fur-lined coats to the grocery store, swore like a sailor, and told me that cookies and milk were a perfectly acceptable substitute for dinner, as long as my mom didn’t know about it.grandma-1

Her duplex sat on Lagrange Street, in the heart of Toledo’s poorest neighborhood. She stayed there, in the neighborhood that she was born and raised, even when it wasn’t necessarily a safe place anymore. Shootings and stabbings happened almost every day on her block, but she’d be damned or dead before she’d let her kids sell it.

Before she lived with us, and when she was well enough to care for herself, she would have me sleep over with her. We’d listen to crime calls on her police scanner or watch wrestling together on the big faux wood television, rooting for our favorites like The Macho Man and Hulk Hogan. One time she even took me to a WWF event at the Toledo Sports Arena and I got to see Jake the Snake wrestle live. I can smell the dripping sweat and buttery popcorn after all these years, if I close my eyes.

***

I insisted on going to see my grandmother one last time after she passed away, even though my mom tried to convince me that I shouldn’t. I didn’t believe it was true: my grandma was too wild to leave me. But at seventy-six, her fire fizzled.

In the hospital, I stared at her lifeless body, cheeks sunken and thin lips gaping from her last breath. I kissed the skin on her forehead goodbye, no longer soft, but cold and hard. The last bit of air was long gone from her lungs and her fingers were rigid, but her nails were perfectly pink.

 Nothing stopped her from having a good time: not her age, her kids, or even the stuffy nursing home. I knew that she had one hell of a good time while alive. And maybe, if she sweet-talked the right guy in heaven, she’d finally get to meet The King.

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Love you, Grandma Pink!

300 Words on 3 Days Sober

Seventy-two hours without a drink in my hand and thoughts are no longer smothered by pressure to reach for a glass, but instead eagerly hovering over the keys with clarity and ambition, reaching for ways to display their excitement through words.

I see expression in myself, my children, and my world that I never knew was there. It’s like I’ve been living with the lights out and ears muffed, stumbling and bumping into things, never quite sure of which direction to take. After making the conscious choice to drink less, the energy around me is palpable and bright.

My lungs are expanding with greater capacity and the crispness of air refreshes my mind, bringing focus to my little space in the universe.

But it’s the moments between each breath, where a feathery touch or tinkling laugh make me realize that staying present will continue to benefit me in ways I never knew were possible with a drink in my hand. These moments were ones the bottle convinced me to ignore most, draining vibrancy from my life.

Though these feelings prove that I am worthy of sobriety, my head continues to persuade me that I am missing out on good times without a glass of my favorite red. It’s a gentle tug pulling me backwards.

I’m hesitant to say that I am free, because I know I’m not. The days ahead of me will be long and filled with uniquely challenging pressures that I haven’t yet prepared myself for. But I will figure them out one by one.

Tonight, I’ll have a glass of wine because it’s the weekend and because I’m flawed. Maybe tomorrow night I’ll have steamy chamomile tea with a teaspoon of honey instead.

And for now, I stand here: three days sober, seeing the clear skies ahead.

Photo courtesy of Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Finding Warmth

Bitter air nibbles the back of my neck. I pull the worn cloth on my coat closer to my ears and sit down on the splintered bench, next to the quiet, dark-skinned girl. Her name is unknown to me, though we travel this same path daily.

We come from the same dilapidated street and, judging by the rags she wears, we are haunted by similar stories.

The doors of the bus open and warm air thieves the rawness from my cheeks. I nod and she boards first.

She smiles, takes my walking stick, and guides me to the last seat.

***

This is my take on the this week’s Yeah Write Prompt taken from The Write Melony’s essay titled The Case.

Photo courtesy of Alex Wong/Stocksnap.io

A Lesson in Speaking Up and Saying Sorry

The neighborhood I grew up in doesn’t look quite like it used to when I was young. Sure, the tiny bungalows and ranches of blues, yellows, whites and brick continue to sit close to the sidewalk with cement slab driveways and manicured lawns framing each one. Mature trees anchor the street firmly in its blue-collar place. And, even today, I could set my watch by the freight trains chugging along two streets over. But it has changed in other ways.

Most noticeably, the neighbors inside the houses seem farther apart. The kids I played with as a child moved out long before I finished high school, and now they have moved on, making families of their own. The houses have changed hands to an older generation who care less about connecting with one another and more about their own to-do lists.

On any given day when I was growing up, a herd of neighborhood kids would congregate in front of my house to play hide-and-seek, red rover and tag. 

I remember one day, in particular, where we were all taking turns with the jump rope and skip-it.

“I dare you to jump rope from the top of the steps,” I said to Douglas, my next-door neighbor. Before the words even finished running out of my mouth, I regretted saying them.

“Yeah, I double dare you!” my step-sister, Steph, exclaimed.

With a wobbly voice, he accepted. I kept my mouth shut and held one end of the jump rope while my stepsister held the other.

We swung the rope around, making it soar up towards the sky. The first couple of times it came down, towards his feet, he cleared it – no problem. But then on the third or fourth time, something happened. I couldn’t tell if he tripped, or maybe lost his footing against the step, but before I could stop it, he fell backwards onto the concrete. It happened in slow motion. First he was midair, face contorting and arms flailing, then he was slamming against the ground beneath him.

Douglas’ head hit the jagged corner of the bottom step, with a loud thunk. Blood started gushing onto the concrete. His face turned chalky as he opened his mouth into a strange shape and screamed. Razor blades scraped against my ears. My feet weighed ten thousand pounds, but somehow I managed to pick them up, one after another. I ran to find my mom.

I thought he would be broken forever.

Another neighbor, Josh, ran over my driveway and through the next front lawn to find Douglas’ parents.

When the adults met back at my steps, harsh words were shouted and all fingers kept pointing to me and my step-sister. My face was hotter than the blood in front of me, and knew I was responsible. I should have spoken up, but I didn’t.

“It was my idea,” I said, accepting the blame.

Douglas was rushed to the hospital and I was sent to my room where I buried my face against the coolness of my favorite pink pillow. I tried to bury my regret, too, but it kept welling back up through my eyes, streaming down my face in hot spurts.

I wanted to hide there forever, but my mom didn’t let me. After my step-sister went home, she took me to the dollar store. She loaned me four quarters and a dime to buy a toy for Douglas as an apology. I picked out a bag of green toy soldiers because soldiers were strong, and so was my friend.

When we got back home, she made me knock on his door, present in hand. A red-faced Douglas answered with his parents at his side.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey,” he responded.

“Are you okay?” I asked sheepishly.

“I got stitches,” he said, pointing to a freshly shaved spot on his head, sewn up with thick black thread. Looking at it made my belly feel like I just went down the first hill of a roller coaster at Cedar Point.

New tears burned the corners of my eyes. “I’m so sorry,” I said, handing him the bag of plastic army men as an olive branch.

“Cool,” he shrugged. “Wanna play with them?”

I looked up to my mom and she nodded, nudging me into the house. Douglas ripped open the bag and the little plastic soldiers spilled onto the wooden floor. We played with them while our parents drank fizzy cans of R.C Cola and mended the wound festering between them. When I looked up, my mom smiled, letting me know that everything was going to work itself out.

Though many things in my neighborhood have changed over the last thirty years, the bloodstain on my stepdad’s front step remains. It has faded only slightly with time.

Each time I see it, it reminds me to speak up, say sorry, and take care of my friends and neighbors.

***

Right now, more than ever, I need my mom to reassure me with that smile that everything will, again, work itself out.

I tried. I tried to speak up. To do my part, but it wasn’t enough. That roller coaster feeling in my belly won’t go away this time. I keep worrying about what the future holds for my girls, my neighbors, my friends.

Will more blood spill, because we didn’t speak loud enough? What can I do now?

Little plastic soldiers won’t work this time.

Photo courtesy of  Tim Marshall/Stocksnap.io

Two Inches From Losing It All

Thirteen years ago, when my husband was my boyfriend, before we had our two beautiful children, two crazy dogs and our forever home, before our degrees and jobs and life together, before we created our happily ever after, we could have lost it all.

***

I was sleeping on the blue leather couch, our first purchase together, and the television was on. Some lady was trying to sell me cheap jewelry on QVC when I was startled from a dream. I looked around, unsure what woke me. I looked outside my 19th floor window onto the empty city streets below. Nighttime lights twinkled in the empty office buildings that dotted downtown.

What time is it?

Something wasn’t right. I looked at the clock.

After 2:00 a.m.?

My boyfriend should have been home by then.

Where is he?

He’d gone out with friends. “A guys’ night out,” he told me. I picked up the cordless phone to call him. His number, our shared cell phone number, was on the caller I.D. three times. I had missed three calls in ten minutes from him.

Was that what woke me? The sound of the phone?

My heart started palpitating and a mass started swelling within the walls of my throat. Before I could dial him back, the phone, again, started to ring.

“Shit,” I gasped. It rang once, twice, three times before I finally gathered enough courage to answer “Hello?”

“Babe,” he responded.

“Where are you? Is everything okay? It’s so late,” the words started falling out of my mouth faster than he could answer.

“I’m at the hospital. There was an accident, but I’m okay” he responded quietly. I dropped the phone, quickly found my shoes and keys and drove to the hospital as fast as I could safely.

***

I ran inside the hospital emergency room and found my boyfriend with a broken arm and scratches across his face and head. Aside from the arm, he had mostly minor injuries.

As it turns out, his friend’s friend, the driver, made the choice to race someone in his souped up car on their way back home from the bar. He didn’t realize a cop was behind him.

The officer tried to pull him over, but he didn’t stop. He thought he could outrun the radio. He raced through parking lots, flying over speed bumps and barely missing pedestrians with his front end. He sped through a 40 mile per hour zone going over 80 miles per hour. He eventually tried to make a turn, to hide on a residential street, only the tires refused to grip the pavement and he spun out, wrapping the back of his Mitsubishi Eclipse around a telephone pole. The wooden beast came crashing through the backseat, where my boyfriend was sitting. If my boyfriend would have been on the other side of the car, he would have been crushed instantly.

A paramedic and firefighter assisted my boyfriend, getting him out of the car. They explained to him that there was a live wire, hanging only two inches from the roof of the car. Had that wire touched it, the three of them would have been electrocuted.

Upon being breathalyzed, it was found that the driver was well beyond the drinking limit.

He offered to be the designated driver.

***

Thirteen years ago, when my husband was my boyfriend, before we had our two beautiful children, two crazy dogs and our forever home, before our degrees and jobs and life together, before we created our happily ever after, we could have lost it all to an idiot, a friend of friend, drunk behind the wheel.

Photo courtesy of Jilbert Ebrahimi/Unsplash

That Time We Vacuumed a Pea from the Baby’s Nose

Our day started with three Jehovah’s witnesses, two plumbers, and one dog in heat. That would have been enough for any normal family, but my overachieving 18-month-old decided to stuff some peas up her nose during dinner for extra excitement.

The shenanigans started while I was helping my husband clear the table. I picked up a plate and some silverware and took literally ten steps to the kitchen.

“Mama!” I could hear my six-year-old giggling from the dining room.

“I’ll be right back, Sweetie,” I responded. My husband was filling the dishwasher. “Dinner and dishes? I’m pretty lucky!” I said, smacking his rear end.

“Mama, you have to see this! Ash put a pea in her nose.”

“A what?” I sighed and rolled my eyes before handing him my plate. Then I turned and walked casually back to the table. I know my youngest daughter is a trouble-maker. She’s like a cat, cute but sneaky. My oldest, Rey, was stifling laughter with her hand when I arrived. The baby had a bright green pea protruding from her left nostril. I snorted. “Grab my phone babe, I need to document this,” I said, along with every other great parent when her child had gotten herself into trouble. My husband ‘carefully’ tossed me my phone before returning to the kitchen.

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I snapped the photo, then pushed on her nostril, popping the pea out faster than one of those machines that pops out tennis balls.

“Taken care of,” I pretended to dust my hands.

“Wait Mama, there’s more!” my oldest shouted. She likes to exaggerate, as most kids do.

“I’ve told you before not to tell stories.”

“Mama, I mean it. Look! Look!” she jumped up, pointing and shrieking from the other side of the table. I decided to entertain her and peek. I reclined the high chair and peered up the baby’s nose to find yet another pea. It was within pinky-reach, so I quickly pulled it out.

“Well that’s enough fun for me,” I sighed and walked away, wondering if it was too early for a gigantic glass of wine.

“Mama, I think there’s another one,” my oldest had gotten up from her chair. She had one eye closed while pushing Ash’s nose up, stretching the nostrils wider for a better view. “I see something green!”

“Stop being silly,” I admonished. “It’s probably a booger.”

“No really, Momma! I’ll get Daddy’s flashlight.” She ran to the kitchen, came back with a tiny hand-held light. She shone it up the baby’s nose and there, tucked in the highest part of her nasal cavity, was another freaking pea. They were piled in her nose like lottery balls in the tube, only there wasn’t a prize to win.

“My dear God,” I whispered. “Only my child.” I pulled her out of her highchair and attempted to plug the pea-less nostril whilst blowing into her mouth to get it dislodged. Nothing. I used a nasal aspirator. Nope. That stupid little pea was stuck.

We put out a call on Facebook for tips on dislodging objects from body parts, because the people on Facebook are always right. Right? Not surprisingly, nothing helpful came of that, either.

“I don’t know what to do,” I said to my husband. “Maybe it will just fall out on its own?” After many trials, no luck, and a frustrated baby, I called it quits and put both kids in the tub.

A while later, my husband popped his head into the bathroom. “Do we have juice boxes and duct tape? I have an idea.” Good ideas don’t normally start with duct tape, but my husband is resourceful, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

“Check the kitchen,” I said, drying off the kids.

When I came out of the bathroom, he had duct taped a juice box straw to a sippy-cup lid and to, finally, the vacuum hose. “This is going to work. I know it,” he said.

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“Wait. You want to vacuum the baby’s nose? Are you alright?”

“Yes and yes. You hold her down. Rey, you hold her arms and I’ll use the juice box straw to vacuum out the pea. Are we ready?”

“Oh boy,” I said. “I guess we don’t really have a choice.” I laid Ash on the bed, straddled her gently and held her face so she couldn’t move. Her cheeks were squished together like a little Cabbage Patch Doll. My eldest daughter held her arms firmly in place and my husband carefully put the tiny white straw in the end of her nose. I held my breath as the vacuum hummed, coming to life.

I bit my lip and squinted my eyes, praying that it would work. He slowly pulled the straw back, nanometer by nanometer. Time seemed to stop as more and more of the straw became visible. When the end of the white plastic was finally pulled from her nostril, I could see a tiny green pea stuck to the end. The three of us erupted in joyful hoots and hollers.

Kids do stupid stuff. All the time. And some of the stuff is stupider than other stuff. This, amazingly, sums up  what six years of parenting has taught me. So if anyone needs a vacuum attachment for removing small objects from children’s small body parts: noses, ears, etc., I have one and it works like a charm.

For a Friend in Need:

Hello there, Beautiful.

Yes, I’m talking to you. The mom who’s down on yourself because life has once again knocked the wind from your lungs.

Maybe you lost your job, you wish you could lose ten pounds or your baby has been colicky all day. Maybe you are behind on your rent, your dog ran away, or you are fighting with your best friend.

Big or small, it doesn’t matter. You’ll get through it, I promise. Whatever it is.

Remember that you aren’t alone in this. And when you look in the mirror, try not to be so hard on yourself. Try to see the same beauty that the rest of the world sees in you.

Those sprouting grey hairs are not a sign that you are getting older, but rather a sign of the wonderful life you’ve already been fortunate to live. The smile lines and crow’s feet aren’t ugly wrinkles sprawling across your once-buoyant skin, but proof of all the laughter you’ve shared.

The crooked smile on your face is one of a kind, so don’t despise it. Show it off whenever you can. People will gravitate towards you because of it.

Maybe you think your boobs are too big. Or too small. Or too something. It doesn’t matter. They are just boobs. None are perfect, trust me. Not even the manufactured ones.

And maybe the person you see in the mirror doesn’t look as thin or muscular or young as she did ten years ago. But ten years ago was before your kids, or your awesome desk job, or your amazing husband who can cook a perfect medium steak and potato. If you want to lose the weight, fine, but don’t call yourself names because of the extra pounds. You are still you. And you deserve better.

Learn to embrace every imperfection you have, because they are like pieces of art. You are a piece of art.

And don’t worry so much. Trust me, that sink full of dishes, piling laundry and sticky floor aren’t signs of a dirty house, but instead of a family busy with dance classes, football games, visits to the playground, or maybe just frequent trips to the grocery store.  It’s okay to let it go from time to time. It’s okay to breathe.

Stop worrying about what the neighbors have or what’s on Facebook. That can drag you down further. Instead, focus on yourself and the loved ones around you. They are the only ones who matter. They can heal your heart, whatever happens to be troubling it.

You don’t have to be the perfect chauffer, cheerleader, chef, coach, comedian, daughter, doctor, gardener, mediator, mom, teacher, ventriloquist, veterinarian, and whoever else.

It’s absolutely fine to just be. So just be and see where that gets you.

Despite what society tells us, it’s okay to be imperfect. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to scream into your pillow that life isn’t fair. It’s okay to stumble and even to fail. But what isn’t okay is giving up. You can’t throw in the towel over a bad day, week, month, or even year.

Never give up on yourself.

So today when you look in the mirror, straighten your shoulders and love the person staring back at you. You deserve that much.

Remind yourself that you are beautiful and completely worthy. Promise yourself that you’ve got this. Take it one day, one step, one breath at a time, if that’s what you need. You’ll get there in due time.

Trust me, because I believe in you.

Photo courtesy of Jairo Alzate/Unsplash

Winter

Chill permeates the frost-covered grass

And bare trees rustle quietly.

Grey skies loom, threatening war

And wind slices your breath

When it leaves your lips.

A snowflake falls.

Zip your coat,

Winter’s

Here.

 

Photo courtesy of Paul Green at Unsplash

Just Below the Surface: My Relationship With Alcohol

I have this frequent nightmare where I’m underwater, just below the surface of a pool. The water is as grey as the skies above, and I’m cold. So cold. There are brown autumn leaves resting on top of the water, gently rippling from the breeze above. Somehow I know that they are from my parents’ Catalpa tree.  I’m in their pool.  I stretch my hand toward the air, but for some reason I can’t reach the space where water and breeze meet.  And throughout the dream I’m calm. Too calm, even though I know I’m drowning.

Awake, I know the dream isn’t real.  But it is.

It starts with the sound of the cork squeaking out of the bottle, making my heart skip with anticipation.  Even as often as I hear it, it still feels forbidden and exciting. As I pour it, the weight of the bottle feels as familiar as that dream, down to the gurgling sound of the pool filling up.

But it’s the first sip that really gets me. The taste of the tart white or bitter red on my tongue. The feeling of warmth that coats my belly, gives me courage and makes me believe I’m funnier. It tells me I’m better with it, and I nod my head yes in agreement. I know I should stop at the bottom of the first glass, but I pour another and sometimes another.  My head is still above water, I think. I keep drinking.

And when I do, it drags me swiftly down. Instead of thrashing to save myself, I go calmly with chagrin upon my face. I know the place it takes me all too well, and I’m comfortable there, despite knowing the extent it holds me back and pushes me down.

At the bottom of my third glass, the numbness comes. Pain, hurt, bills, everything is gone. It’s only me and my stemless glass. Eventually, I sink.

I’m drowning again.

I’ve heard plenty of stories about how my grandfather loved the bottle a little too much. He would come home angry from the bars night after night, frightening my mom into tears.  And my mom started smoking as a young girl. She tried to quit for years, but never could.

Am I addicted? Hell if I know. I know I don’t feel addicted. I feel stuck. And I know I don’t want to be an addict. I don’t want the blood of an alcoholic, or a smoker, or this ticking time bomb of DNA to define me.  I want my work, my mind, and my kind nature to define me.  I want me to define me.

I am so fucking tired of the cycle. I’m tired of the headache every morning. And I’m tired of that nightmare. I want to dream of blue skies and rays of sunshine instead of grey waters and chill in my bones. I want to watch my children play with clear eyes, instead of through the fog induced by last night’s choices.

I’m also completely afraid. Afraid of knowing who I am sober. Afraid of regaining control. Afraid of asking for help. Afraid of not drinking. Am I ready to commit to that? Is that what I want? What I need?

That’s it. This is where it ends. It won’t control me, like it controlled my grandfather. I will not drown at the bottom of the bottle. It stops today, I swear.

Right after I finish this glass.

***

I wrote the essay above months ago with editing help from the folks at Yeah Write, but didn’t share it out of fear. And my situation hasn’t changed. I drink at least two glasses of wine five nights out of the week. I hate to read that on paper, but I don’t know how to change. Or where to begin the change. Maybe this essay will be it. Maybe not. But I have to start somewhere, because I deserve the chance.

Photo courtesy of Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

Why Lockdown Drills Scare Me More Than My Child

Each day, I watch my daughter climb the steps of the big yellow school bus on her way to class. As it speeds off with her inside, it pulls the breath from my chest along with it. As much as I hate to admit it, the violent world we live in forces a small part of me to wonder if she will return. But as soon as that thought enters my mind, I push it back out. If I allowed those thoughts to dwell, I would drive myself crazy considering the horrible possibilities. But now my daughter is old enough to understand that, too. She sees more than cotton candy and plastic ponies. She sees the danger.

***

“Okay, guys. Everyone sit quietly and wait for the drill to be over.”

I overheard my daughter talking in her playroom, so I went in to check on her. She had some of her dolls lined up in a sitting position, shoulder to shoulder. “What are you doing, Hun?” I asked her, taking a spot on the floor next to her. I folded my legs underneath me to reach her level.

“We’re having a lockdown drill,” she said, nonchalantly shrugging her small shoulders. The hair on my arms raised. I couldn’t believe my six-year-old had to experience that kind of thing.

“What’s a lockdown drill?” I asked, pushing a rogue hair away from her face. I needed to know more, to know if these drills were affecting her.

“We have them in school,” she replied. “We sit really quiet by the backpacks and a police officer pretends to be a villain by rattling the door handle.” Tears clouded my vision, but I didn’t dare let one fall to my cheeks.

“How many lockdown drills have you had?” I asked. I pulled her into my lap. My parenting instincts kicked in and I had a visceral desire to protect her. I’m a mama bear protecting my cub.

“So far, two times,” she shrugged again.

I remember fire drills from school. We’d line up and quietly walk outside in a single-file line away from the building. A fireman would be at his truck timing our exit to safety. I’m also familiar with tornado drills. I’m from the Midwest, so tornados were pretty common. We’d sit crisscross applesauce in the hallway, lined up knee-to-knee, with our heads tucked securely in our laps. We’d cover our neck with our hands for protection. Although it was painful sitting like that for what seemed like forever, we looked forward to it as a welcomed break from classwork. I can’t imagine feeling the same about a lockdown drill. Angry people with guns are a different kind of threat than a natural disaster. There are too many unknown variables.

“Does that scare you?” I asked her.

“Not as much as Star Wars,” she looked away from me, distracted by her dolls.

I could feel the vein in my neck begin to expand and contract. My young, sweet daughter understands that there are predators out there that we have to prepare for. I don’t know if I’m ready to hand over the keys for her to drive herself to safety yet. I’m not ready for her to grow up. I know I can’t shelter her under the protection of our roof forever, but first grade seems too soon for the veil to be lifted. I want her to think of unicorns and Santa Clause instead of bad guys and bullets.

I once asked my friend, Nina Parrish, a well-respected teacher, mother, and business owner in Fredericksburg her opinion on lockdowns. She told me, “Unfortunately, the reality is that we have violence in our schools. There have been active shooters in elementary schools, and the schools would be irresponsible if they did not prepare.  Lockdown drills ensure that students and teachers know what to do if the worst case scenario does arise.” But that doesn’t make it any less scary for anyone involved; children, school staff, parents, police officers – everyone is affected by these drills. But what’s worse? Not being prepared? Still, my fists clench and bile rises from my belly when I imagine what it’s like to be in her classroom during a lockdown drill. Seeing the children piled into the corner, being told to be quiet while the person with a gun threatens their lives.

***

At the end of each day, when she climbs back down those big bus steps smiling and waving, I exhale with relief. Another day of school has passed and everything is fine. I know my daughter is home, safe.

My heart strings have tightened because I know the older she gets, the less I can protect her from every scrape, heartbreak, bully, and villain. And I know the older she gets, the more I have to trust her to follow her own instincts. The more I have to entrust in the world to keep her safe. The more I have to let go.

Until then, I will continue protecting her one mama bear moment at a time.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Davies on Unsplash